| by Malhar Mali |
Halloween 2015 at Yale, also known as the Christakis affair, marked the moment for many where they became cognizant of a strain of extreme activism on college campuses. Dr. Erika Christakis sent an email in response to a campus-wide blast issued by Yale warning students to be careful with the costumes they wore. What did she say? Amongst benign words exploring the concept of “cultural appropriation” etc., she wrote:
“… if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.”
For this, Erika Christakis and her husband, Nicholas, eventually resigned from their positions after enduring a hailstorm of criticism from students and professors alike.
To find out about the climate for professors, I spoke to an educator who works in the Natural Sciences Department of a North American University. They elected to remain anonymous in fear of reprisal for partaking in this interview. They’ve been a lifelong Liberal but, today, refuse to be associated with Progressivism or Conservatism.
The following is the conversation, transcribed and edited for clarity.
Malhar Mali: How has the political atmosphere changed on college campuses throughout your years in undergrad, graduate, and PhD study?
Professor: Dramatically since I started undergrad in 1988. What I have seen in the last 5 years has paralleled what I saw back then — the broad premise is “political correctness”;”Social Justice” and all the variable auspices that come up. This started around 1980’s by academics who were slightly older. When I started college in 1988 we started talking about “Take Back the Night” which eventually evolved into “Rape Culture” between 1990 and 2015.
Instead of talking about History, Philosophy, and Sociology, we started learning about Women’s Studies, Black Studies, Gender Studies, X, Y, Z Studies as opposed to learning methods. This took place from around 1990–2010. So if you were born after the late 80’s or later you grew up with certain expectations — expectations like what we see now with “Safe Spaces” and attacks on Free Speech and the idea that “my feelings trump your ability to inquire about anything.” This wasn’t the case in the 80’s University atmosphere and even the early 90’s to a degree. But now it’s sufficiently common that the small minority of vocal voices drown out everyone. In 2015 it became so extreme that the silent majority throughout the world finally said: “we can’t take this anymore.” That’s what I saw take place in 25 years.
MM: So just recently the “silent majority” is starting to push back against these ideologies? Is that a fair overview?
P: Very much. I’ve been monitoring these discussions on social media for a number of years — largely since 2013. What I saw was that social media seemed to be a ground zero for a pushback against these cultural tendencies that have been in place since 1985.
In 2013, the first Facebook pages came online that seemed to question the proverbial “Social Justice Warrior” narrative. Initially they seemed to be in the lunatic fringe. Then in 2014 they gathered attention so people started saying, “Oh, there’s crazies and they’re bad people.” Which is precisely what they said about Martin Luther King — that he was a bad person — that Gandhi was a bad person; that Harvey Milk who campaigned for gay rights was a bad person; the woman who fought for the vote were bad people.
Obviously one wants equal rights for everyone. But when one person says they don’t like the majority narrative they get called “the crazies” instead of dealing with their arguments. In 2013 the Anti-Social Justice Warrior and the Anti-PC group were under the radar screen. In 2014 they were on the radar screen and got called the “crazies”. In 2015 they didn’t go away — because the beauty of the internet is that you can’t make people go away. Arguments keep coming like the barbarians at the gates.
And the only solution on social media is to delete comments — which Social Justice Warriors and Feminists have started to do. Because when you say, “All men are potential rapists,” and you find out women rape, too; when you say, “Men do domestic violence,” and you find out Lesbians have the highest rates of domestic violence, this is what happens.
People started producing data and questioning the mainstream narrative. And the media started say: “Let’s not have this anymore.” That’s where we are now. The people asking the questions have not stopped doing it and now we have the proverbial “emperor has no clothes.”Typically, it’s kids and disenfranchised people who are saying they don’t buy what the powers that be are selling.
I would truly say it’s equivalent to Stonewall for the Gay Rights movement, I equate it to the fall of the Berlin Wall — for real — I equate it to the Arab Spring but bigger. I would actually argue that what’s happened in 2014 is bigger than the Arab Spring.
MM: Really? That’s a bold claim.
P: Historically in terms of global culture it’s bigger because the impact will be larger. What’s happened since 1985–2015 has been the rise of Cultural Marxism to equal Economic Marxism and the result is what we colloquially call the “Oppression Olympics”. They arose for a reason — not by accident.
MM: Many people aren’t cognizant of what’s happening on College Campuses or how the inmates are running the asylum. When I bring up this issue to people that aren’t really paying attention, I’m often met with ridicule or people telling me: “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
P: You’re right. When I tell people that crazy things are happening on University Campuses, I’m told by my peers and former friends that I am crazy and that I am the problem. Historically, this is the kind of thing that happened to people like MLK or Harvey Milk.
It’s a tough sell, but others are finally starting to make the same comments. University of Chicago had their recent statement that they wouldn’t do Trigger Warnings and Safe Spaces — that was the biggest such statement and now the dominos are falling. I’ve been waiting for this and watching for this literally for about 30 years.
MM: Moving on, as a professor and Person of Color how are you treated by your colleagues or students when you don’t buy into the popular narrative?
P: I’ve been called a racist. I get called a racist by white undergraduate girls because I don’t believe their definitions from Introductory Sociology 101.
MM: You mean the academic definition of racism as: “Prejudice + Power”?
P: Yes. That “Brown people can’t be racist; Black people can’t be racist — only white people can be racist.” I say to them the most racist people I know are my kind and they call me a racist for that.
MM: This is a bigger problem and what irks me. Any criticism or questioning of the narrative and you are automatically “problematic”. If you question structural oppression of minorities you’re immediately a bigot, if you question the 3rd Wave Feminist narrative you must have some misogynistic motives. I read this article on www.everdayfeminism.com by one of the lead editors which pretty much made the claim that by trying to logically, rationally look at facts, statistics, etc., individuals were “undermining lived experiences of women,” and “insulting their critical thinking skills.”
P: I read that article. It’s actually worth saving as a historical record — I’m serious about this. I have two children and I’m going to show it to them. As a case in point, www.everydayfeminism.com is a goldmine — a historical goldmine — that we didn’t have for the Nazis or the KKK for how warped their thinking was.
everydayfeminism.com is important because it’s the 2015 version of what the 1985 feminist theories created — which I learnt in school. The premise is you do not question the feelings of those who are oppressed. But you have claim oppression — it’s not a mathematical equation. If I claim it, you can’t question me. This became the central premise of Feminism, propagating over to gender studies, and race studies which then turned into the “Oppression Olympics”. Which meant: “you can’t question me.” And as everydayfeminism.com says, “you can’t use reason, logic, and evidence to question me.” Well, if I can’t use those — the bedrocks of human civilization — then what I can do? Nothing.
MM: The response to the word “Feminism” in the mainstream is overwhelmingly positive. I suppose they’re referring to the first and second waves and Equity Feminism. Can you tell me where you think the following waves have gone wrong?
P: I’ll give you a brief history. In general, humans try to increase our rights. We want human beings to have equal rights and equal responsibilities. That’s something I want and most people do want. That’s never anything that Feminists have had any interest in as stated by the historical record. Their interest was self interest — which is fine, but at least you should state it. They want to vote, but they don’t want to go to war. We want to have this privilege but we don’t want the penalty. That’s not equality. If you’re interested in equality, you would be called an egalitarian. Their belief then is that men have more rights in society — which is empirically false. Women have more rights in the first world.
We can continue down this line but the point is that you were never supposed to look because this whole thing is supposed to be based on feelings.
One wants to establish equality of rights and responsibilities for all human beings. Let’s do that. But as it turns out the Feminists are not interested in that because if you ask questions the entire narrative falls apart. The narrative being only women have it bad and only men have it good. So they created “Patriarchy Theory” to explain why one of us oppresses the other group.
Malhar Mali likes to write about how and why people think they way they do; secularism, human rights, politics, and culture. You can connect with him on twitter here.
Header Photo: T. Tanzyna